(NEXSTAR) — Ezeugo Anozie, a junior in college, has only ever performed publicly with his church. That changed Sunday when the 21-year-old took to the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida to perform — for millions of people, no less — as a backup dancer during the Weeknd’s rousing Super Bowl LV halftime show.
“Performing there was so surreal,” Anozie recounted. “I can’t even fathom the experience. It was something so epic.”
But the journey to the halftime show wasn’t an easy one. First, Anozie had to fill out an application and submit a video of him dancing — he chose the Weeknd’s song “Blinding Lights” for the audition.
After being picked, Anozie embarked on a heavy rehearsal schedule: Every day for the two weeks before the Super Bowl, with some rehearsals lasting over eight hours.
Anozie said he had to miss work — he’s employed at his local Publix — to attend the rehearsals. He picked up extra shifts leading up to the Super Bowl to account for the deficit.
When asked if it was worth it, Anozie didn’t hesitate: “It most definitely was,” he said.
On the morning of the Super Bowl, Anozie said he went to church before driving to the University of South Florida, where the performers were held for a few hours. From there, they got dressed in their iconic costumes — a red jacket, black slacks, shirt and gloves — and journeyed to the Raymond James Stadium, where they watched the game from backstage.
Then it was showtime. Anozie said he felt some butterflies at first, but the nerves immediately went away “after the first step.”
“It was now or never,” he said.
After the performance ended, Anozie said he started taking photos and videos, some of which went viral on the streaming platform Tiktok. He says he even got a smile and wave from the Weeknd himself.
Though he’s never been formally trained, dancing, Anozie says, is part of his culture as an Igbo, an ethnicity stemming from south-central and southeastern Nigeria.
“Part of our culture is dance,” he said. “I’ve been doing it all my life. That gave me the background, gave me the rhythm, to perform.”
He said watching his family’s reactions after the halftime show made it all worth it.
“They were screaming and pointing at the screen, saying, ‘Go, Zugo, go!'”
“It felt like almost being one of the football players,” Anozie concluded. “I won’t ever experience anything like that in my life.”